The Great Rann of Kutch or “salty desert” is a surreal destination that charms even the stone-hearted. Adorning the crown as the world’s largest salt desert, the White Deserts at Rann of Kutch could offer a plethora of surprises. This marshy and bewitching place is like no other place you would’ve ever seen as they flaunt a cornucopia of rare flora and fauna. The Gujarat tourism aptly describes this ethereal, out of the world as “a symphony of salt and stones cuddled on one side by the sea and the other by desert”. If you still think that this place is not worth you’re time, even after my aureate description of this place, you better reconsider your self-proclaimed title as a traveler.
16th March 2014 (Full moon Night)
Since Rann of Kutch was the star attraction in my Gujarat trip, I think its fair to start of from the middle of the itinerary. So, its me and my school classmate Don, who just landed in Bhuj after an interesting train journey from Ahmedabad (I’ll leave that for the next post). As usual, I had absolutely no idea about what I should do in Bhuj, apart from go to Rann of Kutch. But this time, I had a friend in Bhuj to help me out. Mr. Jenson, the branch manager at South Indian Bank Bhuj branch was our cordial host. Initially, he was hesitant to join us to the white desert, but finally we convinced him and a friend of his, Mr. Rajeesh also agreed to come along. So, at 11 pm, we set out to explore great Rann of Kutch, in Jenson’s car. Trust me, if you don’t get yourself a car or a taxi, you’ll be a sitting duck under the scorching sun.
If you look out through the window, all you see is barren wilderness and a straight road passing through the middle of it. A few kilometers into the journey, we noticed an interesting board which marked the crossing of “Tropic of Cancer”. In fact, I have crossed this imaginary line countless times, but never have I seen a board that said it. As you’d have probably guessed, we did take a lot of pictures near the board. Everyone loves good Facebook profile pics. Enroute, we stopped near a small village shop and tried maava, a kutch special milk item. It tastes kinda like peda, but better. And you should have some of it before you leave as chances are, you’ll be starving till you get back to Bhuj. Yepp!! You heard me. Again, back to the road. Straight, barren, hot air rising above the heated tarmac causing mirages. Finally, we reached our first destination – The Kalo Dungar or the Black hills.
At an altitude of 458m, it is the highest point in Rann and offers a breathtaking panoramic view of the Great Rann. It’s quite windy up there and the view rendered us speechless. An incomprehensible vastness spreading into infinity. The salt lake looked extremely beautiful and looked like a she shore. You could spend hours savoring the beauty of the natural wonder. Well, we didn’t have all the time in the world, so we came back down. Now on your way down, there is a 50m stretch which is a magnetic hill. The road is almost flat, but our car kept moving in neutral, gaining speed. Unfortunately, our car didn’t hurdle down at speeds of over 80 kmph as some people claimed. You are welcome to test it and let me know if I got it wrong. On our way down, we saw a small hut, its owner, his camel and a goat. Siddhique Raza of Drobana was a very courteous and welcomed us to his tiny, but clean hut. We took a few pics with him and bade farewell.
Kalo Dungar is close to the Indo – Pak border. So, we wanted to visit the border. Since we had no permit, the military stopped us at India Bridge. Well, if you’re thinking that its close to the border, then think again. If you go by road (rather long) it’s about 80 km away. I guess that should tell you the level of security at the border. The military did sell some water bottles and biscuits for the wary travelers.
On our way back from the India bridge, we noticed a rather unusual crowd in a ground. There were people standing on top on every vehicle, staring into the middle of the crowd. We were so curious as to see what it was and we went in there. It was a local wrestling competition and the people in the crowd were so tall that I couldn’t see anything. But then, my mobile came to my rescue. The locals told me that it was a friendly “Ghusti” known as “Bakh – Mulukhdhu” (It’s not my spelling). The background score for the match was also interesting. Since none of us were good in wrestling, we decided not to give it a shot. The opponents did look scary.
Our last stop, was the great white desert. It was our last stop as we wanted to wait till the scorching sun was about to set. Also, we wanted to see the sunset and the moon rise from the vast flat white expanse of salt crystals. The entry fee to this white rann is Rs.100 per head and Rs.50 for the car. First we reached the venue of the Rann Utsav. It was almost the end of it, and still it was very expensive. So, the alternative, just go to the desert directly. Before we reached the white desert, we took a detour through a dirt road. Totally flat and barren. And it was a wonderful sight to see the dust storm unleashed by the wheels of our Wagon R. We did take our time, clicking interesting and innovative photographs.
Finally, we arrived the at the white desert. Crowded, but an otherworldly experience. Hard white salt crystals that crumble as you step over them. I’d recommend wearing a good shoe or so, as the deliquescent salty marsh nearly damaged my shoe. The 7 pm sunset as seen from the Rann is a sight to cherish forever. Its unique and marvelous. It is a photographer’s paradise. The full moon that replaced the bright orange sun, illuminated the white desert with its radiance. Words cannot describe that beauty that I saw before me. Since I did not have an SLR camera, I was not able to capture the essence of this beauty in silicon chips. If you are going to Rann on a full moon day, I’d suggest taking a good SLR camera and a tripod (Provided you know how to take decent pictures using an SLR camera).
And then I drove all the way back to Bhuj. We nearly starved all day, except for a few biscuits and tea, as we couldn’t find a single hotel during this entire trip. As I said in the beginning, better take some food or snacks with you or else, you can starve like we did. The choice is all yours. We reached back in Bhuj by around 9:30 pm and had a heavy dinner at a hotel there. And I we went back to Jenson’s place for a well deserved good night sleep.
End of the Rann of Kutch Post. I’ll also be writing about Bhuj/Mandvi and then about Ahmedabad/Baroda.